From Pancakes to St. Piran’s Day?

I had fully intended on posting sooner; however, I landed in the United Kingdom and within a day had a nasty cold. The voyage from the United States to Cornwall is not an easy one. It involves a plane, followed by train, that requires a seat booking, otherwise you will stand (train is 4-5 hours) or another plane, and then a car journey. I was absolutely exhausted, and literally was ill the very next day. So, moral of the story take Vitamin C, and no matter how much of a pro at flying you are get some sleep.

However, on to more important information, on Tuesday, February 28th I got to experience my full British Pancake Day. What is Pancake Day? Pancake Day is in other terms Shrove Tuesday, which is the equivalent to Fat Tuesday celebrated in the United States during Mardi Gras. Pancake Day is the idea of filling oneself prior to the beginning of Lent, which begins the following day. Now Pancake Day is a pretty unique day, for one the grocery stores run out of frying pans, people have races in the towns juggling pancakes (sometimes dressed in costume), everywhere advertises it, and most amazingly they aren’t even pancakes. They are thin crepes! They are commonly eaten as well with lemon and sugar, or golden syrup. This is a huge contrast in comparison to the traditional American pancake, that is well-fat. In addition American pancakes are consumed with delicious maple syrup. So, in good humor we decided to make both pancakes, I merely added blueberries to the American ones for some extra fun (they do not sell American/fat pancake mixture in the UK at a traditional grocery store, so we brought ours from the US). In the end they both turned out delicious, and I learned something new.

Now, St. Piran’s Day is a uniquely Cornish Holiday, it is the national holiday of Cornwall, and is celebrated on the 5th of March. St. Piran was born in Ireland in approximately the 5th century, and grew to have special powers that allowed him to perform miracles of healing. The King and Queen of Ireland unimpressed with St. Piran had him thrown into the sea with a millstone put around his neck. St. Piran managed to survive and land in Perran Beach, and it was in the nearby town of Perranporth where his followers flocked. He not only managed to continue preaching and teaching, but he as legend has it discovered tin. He had a black stone carved into a fireplace that when heated revealed a white substance that seeped out of the stone, a metal called tin.  This discovery led to Cornwall’s wealth of tin mining, and the creation of the Cornish flag. A black flag with a white cross which represents the original stone and tin from his discovery. As a result, every year people from all over Cornwall celebrate this day in memory of St. Piran.

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I had the privilege of attending this year’s event, right in the heart of Perran Sands. We walked some 9,000+ steps to get there, but that did not deter the crowd (nor me). A play is put on describing the journey of St. Piran, and you follow the procession through the sand dunes. On this particular Sunday, it was incredibly windy and cold, and if you could imagine on sand dunes it was even worse! However, people still came and celebrated holding high their Cornish flags. The truth is that even though Cornwall is the poorest county in the United Kingdom, and their wealth is not what it used to be as most mines are closed/abandoned it is quite clear that their pride is still very alive. The children did not cry, the elderly held their flags high blazing in the wind, and the crowd marched on like sheep amongst the herd, proud to be one with their kin.